Unitec grows a tree collection
Botanical enthusiasts will be able to indulge their passions with the launch of an arboretum on the expansive Unitec grounds.
The idea for the arboretum was planted three years ago when landscape architecture lecturer Penny Cliffin decided to get her students to document the flora within the university’s 55ha property.
The project attracted a grant from the school’s environment sustainability fund and grew from there.
Ms Cliffin says an arboretum is a managed collection of trees which is designed in part for research and educational purposes.
It also needs to be documented and labelled and have a supporting library.
She says they made a couple of surprising discoveries while documenting the school’s trees.
‘‘Over by Building 48 it is a hot spot with a big collection of both native and exotic trees over 100 years old. There are some botanically rare trees amongst them like the Japanese tan oak,’’ she says.
‘‘I didn’t know that tree before I saw it there, and there are two on campus. As far as I know they are the only two in Auckland.’’
There is also what is believed to be the largest jacaranda tree in Auckland – Ms Cliffin’s personal favourite.
‘‘Another distinguishing mark is that the arboretum marks the four eras of land use,’’ she says.
In the 14th century the land had been used by Maori settlers in the area, until the mid-1800s when it was purchased by the Crown and was used by European settlers for farmland.
In the late 18th century the crown commissioned a ‘‘lunatic asylum’’ which was later known as Carrington Psychiatric Hospital.
The hospital boasted a spring and beautiful gardens that were tended by the patients.
In 1992 Carrington closed and two years later Unitec opened its design school in the former hospital building.
The arboretum can be best appreciated by a walk around the school grounds which takes most of an hour.
More than 100 trees have been labelled with a special system of stainless steel labels that allow the tree to expand without causing harm.
The labels have QR codes that can be scanned by smartphones, allowing people to gather more information about the trees.
Ms Cliffin says the Unitec grounds already draw in residents who want a stimulating walk and the arboretum will bring in more of the public.
‘‘I think a lot of people value this area as a big open green space,’’ she says.
‘‘With higher density housing expected for Auckland in the future these kinds of spaces where people can bring their kids and walk their dogs are becoming more and more important.’’
Greenthumb: Penny Cliffin, right, and research assistant Daisy Tang put the community to work planting more trees and weeding at the launch of the Unitec arboretum.
Upstream: A fish ladder has been built in Unitec’s Suffrage Garden to help fish climb their way to the upper stream.